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9 detained in Tajikistan in connection with Moscow concert hall attack, Russian state media report

MOSCOW (AP) — Nine people have been detained by Tajikistan's state security service over suspected contact with the perpetrators of last week’s attack on a suburban Moscow concert hall that killed 144 people, Russian state news agency RIA Novosti said Friday.

The reported arrests came exactly a week after the massacre in the Crocus City Hall, in which gunmen shot people waiting for a show by a popular rock band and then set the building on fire. The four suspected attackers were arrested and identified as Tajik nationals.

An affiliate of the Islamic State group claimed responsibility for the attack, the deadliest on Russian soil in years. The Kremlin, however, has insisted that Ukraine and the West had a role, something Kyiv has vehemently denied.

RIA Novosti said Friday, citing an unnamed source in Tajikistan’s security services, that those detained in the Central Asian country were residents of the Vakhdat district that lies east of the Tajik capital, Dushanbe. The report said those detained are suspected of having connections with IS. Russian security forces were also involved in the operation to detain them, according to the agency.

In Russia, a total of nine suspects have faced court so far and were remanded in pre-trial detention. The latest hearing took place Friday, with a judge in the Basmanny District Court ruling that suspect Lutfulloi Nazrimad should be held in custody until at least May 22. Russian independent news site Mediazona cited Nazrimad as saying in court that he was born in Tajikistan.

Russian officials previously said that 11 suspects had been arrested, including four who allegedly carried out the attack. Those four, identified as Tajik nationals, appeared in a Moscow court on Sunday on terrorism charges and showed signs of severe beatings. One appeared to be barely conscious during the hearing.

Russia’s Investigative Committee additionally said Thursday it had detained another suspect in relation to the raid on Crocus City Hall, on suspicion of being involved in financing the attack. It did not give further details of the suspect’s identity or alleged actions.

Russian officials including President Vladimir Putin have persistently claimed, without presenting evidence, that Ukraine and the West had a role in the attack.

The Investigative Committee said Thursday that it has “confirmed data that the perpetrators of the terrorist attack received significant amounts of money and cryptocurrency from Ukraine, which were used in preparing the crime.” On Friday, the agency also claimed that the suspects said they were instructed to head to Kyiv after the attack to collect their payment.

Ukraine denies involvement and its officials claim that Moscow is pushing the allegation as a pretext to intensify its fighting in Ukraine.

The death toll from the raid continues to rise, with the number of deaths increasing to 144 on Friday when a severely injured victim died in a hospital, according to Russian Health Minister Mikhail Murashko.